Leaders: We must build on the success of Sir Chris & co | Highers require a little star quality
EXTRAORDINARY. Incredible. Unique. Magnificent. After Sir Chris Hoy’s triumph last night, such superlatives seem superfluous.
For in truth it is hard to find words which can adequately describe the scale of his achievement. It is better, therefore, just to stick to the facts and let them speak for themselves.
With his gold medal win at the velodrome, the Scot who took up BMX cycling as a boy after watching ET, has become the most sucessful Olympian in the history of British sport, with six gold medals and one silver to his name. He has passed the record set by rower Sir Steve Redgrave and equals the record medals tally of fellow cyclist Bradley Wiggins, who has fewer golds.
In winning what will almost certainly be his last Olympic medal, Hoy has become a role model for athletes, living up to the Olympic ideal – or at least the modern version of it in the professional era – with his dedication, commitment and sportsmanship. Although there are financial rewards which are alien to the founding spirit of the Olympics, Hoy is clearly not motivated by money.
No-one gets to the elite level he has reached without an iron will and absolute determination to add to the natural talent the 36-year-old possesses. His success is down to those personal qualities and the careful nurturing of his talent through the financial support to cycling, which comes mainly from Lottery funds.
It is a similar story in other sports, for what has been remarkable about these Olympics is that Team GB’s success has not just come in cycling, but in a wide variety of sports, from the equestrian events through sailing, rowing and track and field. Although it has been claimed home team advantage makes a difference, Britain has already exceeded expectations in terms of the medals won at London 2012.
On top of that, the Scots in the team can give themselves a pat on the back. They have punched above their weight, or, more accurately, their proportion within the team, to win a clutch of medals, proof positive that Scotland and the Scots, at least in some sports, have not lost a competitive edge. That, too, is to be celebrated.
The challenge now is to build on the success of Sir Chris and Team GB by ensuring the whole country becomes more involved in sport, at every level.
This has already been said so often that it has become a cliché. However, the need to develop sport as a way of improving the nation’s health and wellbeing is axiomatic, particularly ahead of Scotland hosting the Commonwealth Games in 2014.
How to achieve that goal is another matter. No-one would quibble with the use of Lottery funding for sport, but given how eager politicians – including Nationalists – have been quick to leap on the Olympic bandwagon, it is time for them to put their money where their soundbites are.
Highers require a little star quality
To THE 160,000 young people who received their exams results yesterday and got the marks they were hoping for, congratulations. To those who did not do quite so well, commiserations. Congratulations, too, to teachers and parents who supported Scotland’s youngsters through the exam ordeal.
But now they know how they did, a new challenge faces these young people: finding a place in a university or college, or finding a job. And it is appropriate to ask whether yesterday’s results, which show pass rates continuing to increase, help this process.
Take the pass rates for Highers, Scotland’s gold standard exam, which have increased by 7 per cent over the past decade. The inevitable consequence will be that prospective employers or educators are faced with a growing number of applicants with similarly impressive results. How can they choose between them?
To ask this question does not mean returning to the largely redundant argument over “dumbing down” exams. There is little to suggest they have and, anyway, we are where we are. But we still need to find ways to ensure that employers and education institutions can distinguish between
One way would be through interview, which employers carry out routinely, but most Scottish universities refuse to do, claiming it is too time-consuming. An alternative would be to follow the example south of the Border, where an extra merit level was added to A levels, the A*. If we wish to retain Highers as our gold standard, a Higher* grade might have attractions. Or we could attach more importance to Advanced Higher results, which many English universities already use to judge Scottish students.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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